Q: Why do Appaloosa’s tend to have thinner/shorter manes and tails than other breeds?
A: Appaloosas with sparse manes and tails tend to have more of the ‘original’ breed in them. This means that when an Appaloosa competes in a breed-specific show his thin/short mane and tail should not be held against him in the scoring.
The reason for this thinner hair is found in the origins of the breed. Spanish conquistadors originally brought the horses into North America in the 16th century. However, Native American tribes quickly obtained these animals from the Spanish and became excellent horsemen. The spotted horses of the Nez Perce tribe were particularly prized at the time, and it is thought that the Nez Perce were one of the first groups in the world to introduce selective breeding in horses, where horses are bred selectively for particular traits. The Nez Perce preferred short tails in particular because they didn’t catch on the undergrowth when they were out hunting. For this reason, they bred for horses with short and thin manes and tails.
This selective breeding for functionality is the reason so many Appaloosas still carry the thinner manes and tails of their ancestors.